Clinical trials are expensive to run and notoriously time-consuming, but many of these costs and delays are down to inefficiencies associated with recruiting and retaining patients, outlines a new white paper commissioned by One Research.

Ten years ago the IBM Institute for Business Value produced a report concluding that “inefficient patient recruitment processes will increasingly become a formidable barrier to pharmaceutical companies’ success in launching new products,” and called for improvements in the patient-recruitment process “to avoid wasted investments and eliminate costly delays in bringing new drugs to market”.

These issues “are yet to be eradicated”, note researchers from the University of Sussex Innovation Centre in the new white paper Improving Standards of Patient Recruitment and Retention in Clinical Trials. Broadly speaking, they conclude that significant costs and delays might be avoided by empowering patients more effectively, streamlining the recruitment process for both patients and clinicians, and reducing workload for clinicians and researchers.

The report – which draws on insights from a wide range of stakeholders including the clinical-research sector, pharma, CROs and patient advocacy groups – says the industry must improve its communication to patients, not only to raise awareness of the available opportunities to get involved in clinical research, but also to reassure them of the vital importance of their role. Also, the approach must by truly patient-centric, “ensuring that the priority of research professionals is to work in the interests of the patients”.

On a different note, the healthcare industry “must strive to be more proactive in addressing the dynamic between protocol and recruitment,” noting that “a secure central resource collating patient data would go some way towards providing the much-needed evidence that the suitable patient population is significant enough to meet the protocol criteria”. Also, for protocols to be met consistently, there needs to be a greater emphasis on performing feasibility studies ahead of design, it said.

“We hope that this white paper will be a catalyst for change in how patients are recruited for clinical research worldwide,” said Alistair Crombie, MD of One Research. “We’re not advocating ripping up the rulebook and starting again, but we intend to get people talking about the numerous inefficiencies that hold back the vital progress of clinical research, and propose a strategic approach that sits alongside and complements current practices,” he stressed.

Access the full white paper here.